High-Tech Lighting Group Sees Bright Future

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The opening of the fifth annual Michigan Solid State Lighting Association Symposium Friday in Detroit. Photo by Amanda Roraff of NextEnergy.

The opening of the fifth annual Michigan Solid State Lighting Association Symposium Friday in Detroit. Photo by Amanda Roraff of NextEnergy.

DETROIT — The solid state lighting industry in Michigan has a bright future, if the Michigan Solid State Lighting Association’s fifth annual symposium is any indication.

Around 100 people gathered to discuss the state of the green lighting industry Friday at the NextEnergy Center in Detroit.

Solid-state lighting refers to advanced electronic lighting technologies like light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Although LED lighting costs more up front, it uses far less energy and produces a much more natural light than current lighting technology. Individual bulbs also last far longer.

Douglas J. Smith, senior vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., kicked off the meeting with an overview of the MEDC’s economy-boosting strategies and the advanced lighting industry’s place in them.

Smith, a former deputy county executive in Oakland County, said he saw parallels between the lighting industry’s growth in Michigan and the development of Automation Alley out of the high-tech end of the auto industry and Oakland County’s Medical Main Street effort to lure more life science employment.

“I am a believer in the auto industry,” Smith said. “I believe it will be the base of our economy as long as any of us are alive. But the future has got to be innovation and diversification of our industrial base. You’re either going to manufacture or grow things, that’s the future of the economy.”

Besides solid-state lighting, water technologies — purification and treatment — and advanced fabrics and clothing are potential growth industries for the county.

Keynoter John W. “Jack” Curran, president of New Jersey technology consultants LED Transformations LLC, predicted that 50 to 70 percent of all lighting sold will be LED by 2020 — indeed, it’s already at 24 percent for lighting giant Philips.

That sounds like a really fast switch, but Curran noted that 90 percent of TVs sold now are flat panel, mostly LEDs, and that transformation happened over the course of a decade.

Curran also pointed out the pitfalls of LED lighting — chiefly, that the LED may last practically forever, but the associated electronics and housing may fail much earlier.

LEDs also present problems when used in dimmable fixtures, including popping on and off.

On the bright side — literally — LED lighting replacing high-pressure sodium street lights results in a 55 percent reduction in energy use, and results in a much more natural-looking light.

Other good applications of LED lighting, Curran said, are jewelry cases — “It really makes jewelry pop,” Curran said — along with food display cases, high-end hotels and art museums.

Current prices for LED light bulbs, Curran said, are $30 to $40, meaning their applications will be mostly commercial for now.

Afternoon sessions at the symposium included case studies for municipal lighting, ways to calculate return on investment, and the best kinds of lighting fixtures for various applications.

More at www.mssla.org.

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